Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Claus Controversy Continued - not 'doing Santa' with a preschooler

Image courtesy of British Library

Two years ago I wrote about our decision not to tell our daughter that Father Christmas is real. I won't go into those reasons again because, well, you can read all about them in the original post, but I thought it might be useful for people to find out what it's like having Christmas with a preschooler when you choose to be honest about Santa.

In short, it's tricky. This is the first year it's been a real challenge, as it's the first year she's been in preschool at Christmas time. In previous years, we've had chance to explain it's a nice story and some families like to play pretend at our leisure, but this time we were a bit blind-sided by just how early the Christmas preparations started at preschool. They started practising Christmas songs straight after half term but I thought little of it, assuming not much else would be said about Christmas until nearer the time.

How wrong I was. In mid-November, Eleanor started talking about Santa. There was even a day when she came home saying that she would ask Santa for, "a stamper like Tilly's." Apparently when she had got upset that she didn't have one, one of the workers had suggested asking Santa. Helpful, seeing as Santa is actually me, I haven't a clue what Tilly's stamper is, and my daughter is blessed with a VERY good memory.

So we didn't get in there first with an explanation, as we'd intended. That means we've been playing catch up a bit this year. When she mentions Santa, we'll say something like, "oh like in the story?" or, "oh yes, we can pretend Santa's coming." We don't want to make a massive deal out of it, but equally we don't want to just 'go along with it', as tempting as it is to make life easier.

Because there are times when I think maybe I should just give up and go with the flow. Santa/Father Christmas seems to invade everything to do with Christmas these days, especially things aimed at children. Finding magical things to do that don't involve telling my daughter that Santa is real does feel very challenging.

But then I think back to my childhood. Yes, I believed in Santa, but the really magical things were nothing to do with that. They were Christingle services and carols around the village Christmas tree. They were Christmas stories by candlelight. They were decorating the tree. That's what really sticks in my memory about what made Christmas  special.

The simple truth is, not 'doing Santa' with a nearly 4 year old isn't easy. But I stand by our decision to do it. I just don't feel comfortable going along with an elaborate lie, especially at a time when Eleanor is starting to grapple with the idea of belief. A couple of times recently she has said she doesn't believe that Jesus was real, prompting us to explain that he was a real person, but different people have different beliefs about him and it's up to her to learn about him and decide what she believes. I don't want to force my beliefs on her, but I want her to know I do genuinely believe them. If I spend a month or more every year trying to convince her of something that's not true, would she still take my beliefs seriously?

Plus, not doing Santa has it's upsides. As I realised when I saw the huge queue for Santa's grotto at the local school fair.

2 comments:

  1. Interesting. We're not not doing Santa, but it's not something we're really pushing either, I mention it in passing and he likes the Raymond Briggs DVD so I think Bagl currently sees him as a character. I really like your point about Christmas being magical. We're atheists, so being blunt about it, everything about Christmas is about material goods, we say it's a lovely festival bringing light into dark times, but those lights need to be bought from somewhere... I'm fine with that though. Anyway, I'm feeling quite sad about a number of posts I've seen on Facebook where people are equating magical with the number of presents Santa brings. That doesn't seem quite right to me, we have continued the tradition that I had as a child where Santa brings a little things to fill your stocking, everything else is from whoever bought it. No one goes mad, but Bagl does get more than I did as a child as we have two sets of divorced grandparents, several who spend quite a bit on him. He seems to be having a pretty magical Christmas though, we've wandered round markets, we walk round the streets looking at the lights every evening, we've baked, decorated the tree, lit candles and are generally having a lovely time. That's the magical bit to me. My memories aren't of the presents I got as a kid, it's of things like playing a daft cracker game or the year we all sang Queen songs round the piano every evening. Things that made me feel happy and loved.

    Sorry for the long comment, it's just refreshing to see a post like this! Now going to catch up on your other posts as it looks as though I haven't been getting them in Feedly.

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    1. It sounds like you've had a far more magical Christmas than us so far!! We've been kind of limited by Eleanor being poorly and me having to take it easy, which makes me feel guilty. Mind you, we've still got almost two weeks to go so I'm sure we'll fit some more magic in!

      I can understand doing Santa for non-religious families. I heard once on a radio show that Father Christmas was basically created to be a figurehead for Christmas for the increasingly secular society in America, and I get that - if you don't believe the religious side of Christmas, having a legend to share is a nice way of still feeling included in the festival. I guess that's why Santa isn't a big deal to us, because we do have that religious side to follow. I do agree though that, if doing Santa, having him bring a few stocking fillers is the way to go - otherwise you get into the whole thing of children asking why they only got a few small presents when Santa bought little Timmy an XBox. To me, that's not really the Christmas spirit!

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